Patten law programme failing pledge

Quinton Chan

MORE than a third of the legislation promised by Governor Chris Patten in his policy address last year has yet to be tabled in the Legislative Council - and there are only seven weeks left before the legislature dissolves.

Mr Patten pledged last October to introduce 56 'main pieces of legislation' in the session that ends on July 26.

Twenty-four bills have yet to be presented. They include the Court of Final Appeal Bill held up by protracted negotiations with China, but now due next week.

Critical legislators said Mr Patten's administration was inefficient and accused the delay in tabling the bills of holding back Hong Kong.

While most of the outstanding bills relate to the less politically sensitive issues of trade, industry and finance, some involve major decisions like regulating estate agents and strengthening workers' rights.

A government spokesman said: 'We have done our best to achieve the programme.' She said the number of the bills was unimportant; what was important was the passage of those which were presented.


The administration had revised the legislative programme in March to give legislators time to concentrate on the most vital bills, she added.

But House Committee chairman Elsie Tu said: 'I don't think he [the Governor] cares what happens after he gave his speech.' The independent legislator and labour leader, Lee Cheuk-yan, said the delay had damaged employees' benefits as the 24 bills included a package of proposals which would improve striking workers' rights and protect union members.

'What happens if somebody is fired because of his trade union membership? He won't have enough protection unless the bill is passed,' he added. 'Mr Patten should explain the delay and tell the public how it is to avoid a repeat in the future.' The administration has also put off introducing three bills aimed at protecting the environment.

Democratic Party legislator the Reverend Fung Chi-wood said the administration had no excuse for the delay.


'All these bills have been proposed for a long time,' he said. 'The Government keeps stressing how much effort it has made to protect the territory. So how can they put off those important bills?' The delayed bills also include a series of proposals to strengthen Hong Kong's position as an international finance centre.

'The Government should recruit more law draftsmen if they think they haven't got enough,' Mr Lee said. 'If that is not the case, this delay really makes me question the Legal Department's efficiency.'